Happy Yet?

Mon 15th – Sat 27th August 2016


Christopher Archibald

at 11:57 on 19th Aug 2016



Katie Berglöf’s new play ‘Happy Yet?’ promises a lot. It bills itself as an exploration of contemporary attitudes to mental health, ‘offering an alternative to conventional ways of thinking’, and all this through a mixture of tragedy and comedy. Despite thought-provoking moments and some promising ideas, the play does not quite fulfil its ambitions. The script is weak in parts, the acting mostly unengaging, and the play’s structure lacks focus and direction.

Torsten, played by William Irven, has been living in his brother’s house for several years now, unemployed, waking up late, and behaving recklessly and erratically. This should be a compelling character but Irven fails to bring any intensity to the role, remaining at one pitch throughout and failing to communicate any sense of pain or of being misunderstood. Admittedly, Berglöf’s script does not make it easy for him. The opening dialogue is stilted, straining under the weight of a clumsy exposition (the characters apparently have to remind themselves that "this is Sweden"), and the scenes are too short to allow any tension to accumulate. The promised comedy fails to materialise and the audience becomes fidgety around halfway through. The play does manage to regain some interest subsequently, and the ending illustrates how the play’s understated tone, relying on implication rather statement, can be effective.

Berglöf’s script is influenced by her own childhood in Stockholm. The small girl, Torsten’s niece (played by Minnie Murphy), who sits at the side of the stage throughout is a nice touch. However, this idea stops here, despite the numerous interesting directions she could have taken the notion that the events all take place in the girl’s head.

Similarly, though it is implied that Torsten is suffering from mental illness, the issue is not dealt with in depth. The differing attitudes of Sally and Henrik towards Torsten make for an interesting contrast, but once again the opportunity for more development or tension between the two characters on account of this is not pursued. One scene involving a psychiatrist is also sadly underdeveloped, and not especially realistic. It is a shame that, even while attempting to address challenging contemporary issues and supposedly proffer unconventional opinions, the play’s form should be so conventional and unadventurous.

The cool, Scandi aesthetic of the programme and marketing is partly followed through in the bare set and costumes, and gestures towards the vision for this production. Unfortunately, the execution is very underwhelming. The script has the makings of an exciting piece of theatre, but is in need of development and more daring experimentation. The acting is awkward in places and never reaches the level of intensity that it should.


Ed Grimble

at 17:46 on 19th Aug 2016



The day to day domesticity of depression, mixed affective state, and bipolarity are concepts often misunderstood or misrepresented. I was therefore eager to see how Open Mind Productions would deal with these serious conditions, and the ways in which they affect not just the sufferer but those closest to them, in their play ‘Happy Yet?’. I desperately want to be able to say that play is raw, eye-opening, and a worthwhile contribution to the discussion and debate around bipolar disorders. This is, however, not the case. ‘Happy Yet?’ does no harm across its 75-minute running time because, to be frank, it does not do a whole lot at all. The play is often dull and a little vacuous.

The crux of why this play falls a little short is, I think, a combination of the way the lead character Torsten is both written and acted. His mental state has potential for a complex emotional response: the audience should both sympathise with his awful condition, but also condemn his appalling treatment of those around him. Unfortunately, this potential is never realised. Without this strong and stable central pivot, 'Happy Yet?’ sentences itself to mediocrity.

The supporting cast are a mixed bag as well. Minnie Murphy gives a very impressive performance as the young Nina. Tears stream from her face, and her desperate plea of, “Why can’t you just be happy, Torsten?” is one of the only lines in the play which draws blood. Adam Butler also comes into his own as Henrik, Torsten’s brother. As the victim of Torsten's erratic behaviour and financial irresponsibility, he epitomises the struggle between sympathy, guardianship, and needing to discipline the liberties which his brother is taking.

The play is a fine one: fundamentally, there is nothing about its idea which should render it unsuitable for the stage. Furthermore, there are elements in the writing which do portray a real sensitivity to, and understanding of, the issues it wants to tackle. It is so disappointing, then, that this play comes up so short. At points one can really feel its length, and some of the domestic drama only just escapes being labelled outright boring. In its current guise I am not yet happy that play is sharp enough.


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